In-law Update

Despite what some of my friends may think, I do not fare well in a crowd, specially if it is a crowd of strangers, or not-very-well-known people. Throw in a communication barrier such as a heavy dose of Bengali, which, contrary to expectations is not my mother tongue (though it could possibly be considered my “father tongue”), and I’m at my quiet best. I have been “acquiring” the language for the past eight years, but beyond some stock phrases and a limited “daily-use” vocabulary, my powers of expression have not progressed.

So most of my interactions with my extended circle of in-laws have been brief and superficial. Since I usually meet about two dozen of them at a time for a period of not more than two days at a time, communication by way of a smile and a nod worked just fine on most occasions.

This time with Amit’s aunt, the head of the family, it’s been different. I’ve actually been trying to hold regular conversations on advanced subject matters such as trekking – and though I’m sure my pidgin Bengali is a pain to any sensitive ears, at least we are communicating. It’s quite nice!

After spending one short day with us, she went off to stay with another branch of the family. The exchange was carried out over a family lunch. This other branch of the family stays quite nearby but we haven’t met them more than once in all the years we have been in Bangalore. The reason: family politics. Somebody’s father insulted somebody’s brother several decades ago.  Since this aunt is closely related to both branches of the family, meeting them was inevitable. We went over there for lunch and were subjected to exquisite formality and polite interest in our lives and vocations (and, for that matter, vacations). Everything was warm and friendly and nice. Their apartment was lavish, posh, extravagant, huge (there was a living-room-sized verandah adjacent to the ballroom-sized living room) and pristine. The lunch was scrumptious and handmade by the two women of the house. As we left (minus the aunt) promises to meet again were sincerely exchanged by all.

Now social convention demands that we invite this lot (ten people and two kids!) to our place for a lunch and soon. But Amit has very little intention of obliging this particular social convention. Today he will stop by at their place to his way home from work, to pick up the aunt, but unless she holds a gun to his head, he doesn’t intend to invite them over this weekend (or any other weekend for that matter).

This suits me fine. You see, I welcomed the aunt last weekend with a meal that was a complete disaster. The traditional potato preparation was anything but traditional, and the fish curry was only just short of poisonous. Bengali cuisine just does not run in my veins. If we had to entertain them to a meal, what would I serve? Non-bengali food is not likely to find favor with this lot. To make matters worse, my mutton curry, which I consider my strong point in my culinary skills, would be totally put to shame by the dry mutton masala preparation that they had served. Of course I can make cakes like nobody else can, but one can hardly just serve cake for lunch.

So now it’s Friday morning and the aunt arrives this evening for dinner. Instead of concentrating on work – of which I have plenty, for a change – I’m only worrying about what to do for the next five major meals of the weekend (breakfasts don’t count). Any advice?


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